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How to rebrand a credit union

Rebranding a credit union could draw in more members, if it's done right.

A credit union's brand can be one of the most important contributors to growth. People need to know a credit union's name in order to become members. More importantly, people need to feel connected to what the credit union stands for. This cannot be done without a strong brand.

A brand is a big concept and not one that is easy to put together. According to The Financial Brand, everything from the name and logo to the dress and greeting style of employees make up a brand. Each of these things needs to be clearly outlined and explained for a brand to be cohesive and effective.

Over time, a credit union's membership and goals could change, or the credit union could expand. These give institutions good reason to rebrand and create a newer, stronger identity for themselves.

"Everything from the name to the greeting style of employees make up a brand."

According to Inkredible, an Australia-based design agency, there are many good reasons to rebrand. Making a distinction between one credit union and another and appealing to a new audience are among these inspirations. However, there are also times when a full rebrand isn't required. For instance, switching a logo just because it's a few years old, moving or changing up the website don't require a full rebranding.

In the times when creating a whole new identity is the best course of action, it's important to do research to make sure the decisions made are the right ones. A credit union will have to find out how it is perceived and compare this to how it wishes to be perceived. The Financial Brand suggests sending mystery shoppers - people who will take notes on their experience - to find out how employees are interacting with members.

Set specific goals
Once research is completed, the credit union should determine what, specifically, it wants to accomplish through the rebranding process. In Panama City, Florida, Innovations Federal Credit Union decided they needed a change in 2007. The credit union partnered with a brand design firm to help with the process. Innovations said it wanted to attract younger members and increase loan volumes.

With these two specific goals in mind, design firm Raoust and Partners got to work. The firm changed the logo using brighter colors and changed the tagline. It also launched a promotion to lower people's auto loan rates. The promotion reflected the colors and design used in revamping the logo.

After the success of the auto loan reduction campaign, Innovations FCU decided to continue focusing on campaigns that highlight specific products. In the years since the rebranding, the credit union's membership has grown in a big way. At the end of 2013, it had 17,750 members - more than twice as many as it did eight years prior.

Open communication
Throughout the branding process, it's important for credit unions to be open about the changes they are making. When Roanoke Postal Credit Union decided to rebrand itself to become a community charter, it worried about the reactions from its existing members, according to brand expert Mark Arnold. The credit union would have a new name, Blue Eagle Credit Union, and would market to a new audience. To address the concerns, the credit union developed a communication plan. It included how the new brand was going to be explained and created multiple channels of communication, both internally and externally. This was well worth the effort, according to Laurissa Grubb, vice president of marketing at Blue Eagle Credit Union.

"The membership embraced the change because we were so intentional and transparent," Grubb explained to Mark Arnold. "We had been their postal credit union for 60+ years. Yes, they wanted to hold onto it but they understood the need for change. They understood we wanted to be around another 60 years for them."

The new brand launched at the beginning of 2013. A year later, the credit union saw more than a 5 percent member growth and 16.5 percent loan growth.

"Every part of the brand should be deliberate and meaningful."

Every little detail
When rebranding, every detail has to be considered. Every part of the brand should be deliberate and meaningful. Through deliberate branding, credit unions are able to connect with more members. Members will, in turn, learn about how the credit union can benefit them.

When the State Transportation Employees Credit Union in Ohio decided to make changes, it looked at everything from the colors in the logo to the number of syllables in the name, according to The Financial Brand. Ten syllables was too long, so they changed their name to Bridge Credit Union, cutting the name's length in half. With the new name, Bridge Credit Union can better relate to its members, who are mainly in transportation-related industries.

"The new brand embodies the essence and values of who we have always been and who we will continue to be," CEO Christy Leslie explained to The Financial Brand. "Our name 'bridges' the gap between employees within the public and private sectors as well as symbolizes how we help connect members to their financial dreams."